Sofidel tissue paper manufacturing machinery

 
 
 
 

Embracing half a century of innovation

​This year the Italian tissue paper manufacturer Sofidel, based in Lucca, Tuscany, is celebrating 50 years of existence. Despite a demanding market situation, the company has maintained its profitability and is set for growth. This is credit to a unique company structure, expertise in regional markets and cross-border relationships.  

12/2016 TEXT: TIMO NYKÄNEN, PHOTOS: VELHOT / MICHELE SEGHIERI

How has Sofidel come to operate in 13 countries, produce over one million tons of tissue paper per annum and employ over 5,300 people? There is definitely a story to be told here. Andrea Piazzolla, Sofidel’s Chief Purchasing Officer, explains that the company’s history can be categorised in four distinct phases:

“In the first phase, from the 60s to the 90s, when Sofidel was learning about the market and technology, we invested in Italy and started cooperating with retailers. The second phase, between the 90s and mid-2000s, was the internationalisation phase, during which Sofidel developed important green fieldinvestments in France, Poland, UK, Spain and Germany. That was followed by the development of our relationships with our retailers in Europe. The third phase, from the mid-2000s up to 2015, was the phase of acquisitions. We took over some companies and brands and that has granted us some important insight.”

Andrea Piazzolla, Chief Purchasing Officer, Sofidel 

"In the market where Sofidel is active, there will be growth." Andrea Piazzolla, Chief Purchasing Officer, Sofidel.

“At the end of the third phase,” Piazzolla continues, “an important milestone characterized our history. We decided to expand to the largest market in the world, North America. After acquiring the Cellynne Tissue Company in 2012, we are now active in seven US states.” 

The final phase of Sofidel’s historical makeup is the current one. “From 2015 onwards, we have been characterised by organic growth. We are increasing the production of our existing sites in Europe,” Piazzolla notes. By the end of 2018, Sofidel’s total capacity of tissue paper produced per annum will increase by approximately 200,000 tons.

A family-owned tissue business

Despite their internationalisation and penetration of multinational markets, Sofidel’s modus operandi remains firmly rooted in familial tradition. “We are a family-owned company, 100%” Piazzolla proudly says. Everyday operations bring together the hands-on approach of a family-owned company with the ethos and ambition of a multinational. Internal decision-making and communication with shareholders is swift and without hesitation.

“One of the founders, Mr. Emi Stefani, is in the office every single day. The other founding partner, Giuseppe Lazzareschi, passed away in 1993, and his son Luigi Lazzareschi replaced him as CEO. They are both very active in our daily business. Mr Stefani is now 86, and yet he is in my office every day, asking me about the market situation,” Piazzolla notes. Like most of the top management at Sofidel, Piazzolla has been with the company for decades, joining in 1996.

Sofidel tissue paper manufacturing machinery 

With an expected growth rate between 1-1.5% per annum, Sofidel has the potential to install new machinery each year.

Though Sofidel has since profited significantly from foreign markets, the Italian economy hasn’t seen much of a turnaround since the recession began in 2009. Fortunately for Sofidel, their ‘industrial pocket’ is not prone to cyclical fluctuations. Nonetheless, only 20% of the company’s total production is based in Italy. With an expected growth rate between 1–1.5% per annum, Sofidel has the potential to install new machinery each year.

“The way to make a profit, and to take advantage of such a growth rate, is through the quality of the products and through product penetration. In that way, we can achieve great performances in the future,” Piazzolla maintains.

Sofidel is committed to creating competitiveness through sustainability in the mid to long-term, and to performing better according to environmental, economic, social and technological standards. Furthermore, Sofidel is able to create value through their investments in tangible assets. That is to say, via physical assets that have a significant ‘useful life’. This undoubtedly grants Sofidel a competitive advantage over its competitors and attracts long-term partners such as Metsä Fibre.

Metsä Fibre - a value-adding partner

Paolo Di Spigna, Managing Director of Metsä Fibre S.r.l. in Italy, is at the crux of the longterm relationship between Sofidel and Metsä Fibre, which began in 1995. The fact that Di Spigna is located in Italy matters greatly to Piazzolla and his colleagues.

“Metsä Fibre is one of the few companies in the pulp market that has subsidiaries based in Italy. The Italian market is very fragmented. Usually things come about in the pulp market first in Italy and then in the rest of Europe,” says Piazzolla. “Many observers understand the theory of the market very well, but we need those who have a feeling for the market. Paolo has such a feeling – he can predict the behaviour of the local market. That has made our relationship with Metsä Fibre even stronger,” affirms Piazzolla.

Sofidel tissue paper manufacturing machinery 

As part of the ongoing 50th anniversary celebrations, Sofidel is awarding its partners and suppliers with regards to their sustainability efforts. Metsä Fibre are being considered for the Best Supplier and Best Sustainable Product awards. It is evident that while both Metsä Fibre and Sofidel have grown as entities, their respective commitment to sustainability has, to some degree, come to define their relationship.

“With this award, we want to promote the best practices in terms of environmental and social responsibility. We are investing a lot of money in sustainability at Sofidel, and we want to challenge our stakeholders to do so as well. We want to engage our suppliers with sustainability, since we cannot grow sustainably without their help,” Piazzolla says.

INVESTMENTS IN sustainability

As opposed to many of its competitors’ strategy of acquiring existing plants, Sofidel is looking to invest in green field technologies. This means that when acquiring, for example, an industrial space, the company’s ambitions aren’t constrained by any limitations that might be imposed by such a space. These investments and acquisitions ensure that the latest in sustainable technology, along with state-of-the-art standards in all production-related aspects, can be installed and maintained. Piazzolla notes that Sofidel understands sustainability is a “strategic development factor, through which we can contribute to the quality of life of all our stakeholders and consumers.”

You get the sense that sustainability is not just a linear project for Sofidel, but rather a procedural action plan, one that will succumb to change and variation as it is implemented in tandem with today’s economy. In addition to the social and environmental benefits, there are financial perks involved in sustainable actions.

Sofidel tissue paper manufacturing machinery

“As a WWF Climate Saver, our target is to reduce our direct C02 emissions by 23%, and our indirect C02 emissions by 13%, by 2020. We are driven by a ‘less is more’ approach. We believe saving natural resources and lowering the consumption of natural capital will improve our performance and allow us to grow in a responsible way. Also, if we are able to reach these emission reductions, we will be eligible for tax concessions. As such, we will have higher market (entrance) standards, with regards to sustainability, which will make it more difficult for companies to use other competitive methods to enter the market,” Piazzolla states.

Looking ahead

As in any business, there are no certainties in the tissue market, and it’s not always smooth sailing. Of course there are market projections, as well as the kinds of local market predictions which Di Spigna is highly versed in. But that is as far as it goes. A certain uncertainty will always remain, as in any market.

Andrea Piazzolla, Chief Purchasing Officer, Sofidel. 

"We want to engage our suppliers with sustaibanility, since we cannot grow sustainably without their help."

“In the mature market, where Sofidel is active, there will be growth. Also, many new projects and capacities will be introduced to the market. In the Eastern European market, where the product is a commodity categorised by price rather than quality, new capacities will offset growth completely, creating a general over-capacityin the region,” Piazzolla acknowledges. “That will be a challenge. In the meantime, Sofidel has to continue to invest,” he concludes. But for now, Sofidel is entitled to some grand anniversary celebrations.

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    Issue 2/2016/ Voice

    Harnessing all brain power

    According to Jari Tuulenmäki, CEO of Wise/Lean Oy, the mills of the future format deployed at Metsä Fibre is a good example of innovative organisation and leadership.

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  • Metsä Fibre personnel

    Issue 2/2016/ Voice

    Expertise assures competitiveness

    ​Maintaining and improving the high standard of expertise of Metsä Fibre staff is the best guarantee of our continued competitiveness.

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  • Bioproduct mill construction site

    Issue 2/2016/ Solutions

    Äänekoski: Building on fibre know-how

    ​The massive construction project of Metsä Fibre’s new bioproduct mill in Äänekoski has progressed according to plan, thanks to the extensive know-how of experienced project personnel and competent management. Production trials will begin at the mill in spring 2017, and it will be inaugurated in the third quarter of 2017.

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  • Metsä Fibre employee

    Issue 2/2016/ Solutions

    Fibre expertise - A benefit for partners

    ​Optimised pulp refining and consistently high quality are clear added value for Metsä Fibre customers.

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  • Asian rooftop scenery

    Issue 2/2016/ Markets

    Thriving in a challenging climate

    ​Despite of a demanding economic situation, the rapidly expanding group of middle class consumers is keeping domestic demand in China at a high level. The country's booming e-commerce market means that the need for packaging is also growing.

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  • Sukarwood clothing hangers

    Issue 2/2016/ Solutions

    A sustainable package - innovative products from cellulose fibre

    Sukarwood is looking ahead to potential uses of cellulose in new creative packaging solutions where it may replace plastic, glass, metal and even paperboard.

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  • Mikael Engman, Technical Customer Service Manager, Metsä Fibre, Singapore

    Issue 2/2016/

    Mikael Engman joins technical customer service in Singapore

    Mikael Engman has been appointed Technical Customer Service Manager for Metsä Fibre in Singapore.


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  • Suppliers Sustainability Award logo

    / Sustainability

    Metsä Fibre awarded a Suppliers Sustainability award

    ​Sofidel, an Italian tissue paper manufacturer and long-term partner of Metsä Fibre, is committed to generating competitiveness through sustainability. The company’s core business is based on investing in environmental capital, and similarly to Metsä Fibre, responsible supply and value chain management is imperative.

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  • Laura Rotatori, Sales Support, Metsä Fibre Italy

    Issue 2/2016/

    Laura Rotatori appointed Sales Support for Italy

    ​Laura Rotatori has been appointed Sales Support at Metsä Fibre, servicing mainly the Italian office in Milan.

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  • Metsä Fibre customer satisfaction

    Issue 2/2016/

    Record high customer satisfaction

    ​New survey finds Metsä Fibre customers more satisfied than ever in all markets.

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  • Logs

    Issue 2/2016/

    Metsä Group’s Finnish sawmills become part of Metsä Fibre

    ​Metsä Fibre's sawmills in Finland have been integrated into Metsä Fibre in a group internal transaction.

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  • Metsä Fibre attended Paper Arabia 2016

    /

    Metsä Fibre at Paper Arabia exhibition

    ​Last December, Metsä Fibre attended Paper Arabia 2016, the 9th international exhibition for paper, tissue and the converting industry. The three-day event, the largest of its kind in the region, was held at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Center in the United Arab Emirates.

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  • Tissue paper production

    / Solutions

    Supporting tissue makers at every step of the way

    With deep knowledge of tissue making and a long tradition of excellence in the field, Metsä Fibre is an ideal supplier of tissue-grade pulps. Tuomo Niemi, Technical Sales Manager, talks us through the company’s unique offering for tissue makers.

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  • Metsä Fibre at Shanghai Pulp Week 2017

    / Markets

    Metsä Fibre at Shanghai Pulp Week 2017

    ​Metsä Fibre took part in the annual gathering of pulp producers and customers in mid-March at Shanghai Pulp Week. As part of the week’s events, the China Paper and Pulp Industry Chamber of Commerce (CPICC) organised the 2017 China International Pulp Forum, with Metsä Fibre as its Exclusive Partner.

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